This is a series we had been planning with a while – ideally, it would have been ready to go for the start of the current Premier League season but other things got in the way, as they so often do.
It is the 30th anniversary of the introduction of squad numbers in the English top flight, the first major European league to do so (Italy, Germany and Spain would follow suit in 1995-96, while Uefa moved away from 1-11 for the 1996-97 campaign).
What we are planning to do is look at each of the 22 teams in what had just been renamed the FA Carling Premiership, comparing their lineup at the end of 1992-93 with that of the beginning of 1993-94.
We start with Aston Villa. While they had finished second to Manchester United in the inaugural season of the new competition, they were down the rankings when it came to 1993-94 Premier League odds, behind the champions, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool.
The lack of expectation around repeating their title challenge proved accurate as Ron Atkinson’s side finished in tenth place, but there was a consolation as they won the Coca-Cola Cup, their final defeat of United denying them a domestic treble.
Villa’s squad numbers were essentially based on the starting 11 that finished the 1992-93 season – logical, you might think, but not all that common, as we shall see.
On the left is the team that began their last match in 1992-93, a 2-1 defeat away to Queens Park Rangers after Manchester United had clinched the title. In the middle are the same players with their new 1993-94 squad numbers – goalkeeper Mark Bosnich was given 13 as Nigel Spink regained the starting spot.
Villa began 1993-94 with a 4-1 win at home to QPR and the only deviation from the 1-11 was the presence of midfielder Andy Townsend, signed from Chelsea and given number 14, instead of Garry Parker.
Early in the season, Townsend missed the 1-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur and Parker replaced him, giving Villa a perfect 1-11.
As mentioned above, they reached the Coca-Cola Cup final and overcame Manchester United on a 3-1 scoreline. With Ray Houghton absent for that, Dalian Atkinson played on the right while Graham Fenton, who had emerged as a first-team option, played off Dean Saunders with 25 on his back.